Saturday, January 14, 2006

In hte text there are three words underlined in orange, but it was not my intention to put them as links , don´t know why they appear so.

Mauss, Van Gennep

Diskutiere die wichtigsten Aussagen der Werke „Die Gabe“ von Marcel Mauss und „Rites de Passage“ von Arnold Van Gennep. Wie sind die beiden Autoren im Kontinuum ausgehend vom Durkheim’schen Werk bis zum Strukturalismus einzuordnen?
Marcel Mauss and Arnold Van Gennep were both important authors of the French School, even if the first one was surely better considered and known at the time they lived (they are contemporaneous ), while the second one was discovered only in last years of his production.

Marcel Mauss (1872 - 1950)
Durkheim´s nephew, Marcel Mauss was born in 1872 in France to a Jewish family. At the university of Bordeaux he studied philosophy, psychology, law and sociology; he then went to Paris at the “École Pratique des Hautes Etudes” and at “Sorbonne”, where he specialised in Indology, Sanskrit, Hebraism and religious history with a particular interest for primitive or non civilised populations. He became soon Durkheim´s closest collaborator especially for the Journal “L’Année sociologique", where he had an important role also after the death of his uncle during First World War and it is thanks to him that this fundamental divulgation text for sociology and anthropology still exists today. He was also an active participant of the French socialistic Party, for whom he produced some papers with the collaboration of George Sorel, too. In 1901 he became Professor at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes and started to have an ethnographical approach in his works, which allowed him later to enter definitevely in the anthropolocigal field. In order to protect Durkheim’s work but also himself, after the war he founded l'Institut Français de Sociologie (1924) and l'Institut d'Ethnologie ( 1926, with Paul Rivet und Lucien Lévy-Bruhl ). In 1931he was appointed at the College de France, but during Second World War he had to stop teaching and remained hidden because of his religion but also because of his open criticism toward anti-semitism and racial persecutions; many of his students and collaborators died in lagers. After the War, he retired and lived isolated until 1950, when he died in Paris.
His work was strongly influenced by that of Durkheim, even if he had a different approach. As he preferred facts rather than theories, he always refused to build an own system, as we can see from all his production; moreover he considered Durkheim’s system enough for him [1] and a starting point to be eventually completed and developed thanks to the new ethnographical data. Anyway he never moved from his place to personally see other realities and support his theories, even if he taught people on how doing that.
His masterpiece was without doubt “L’essai sur le don”, originally publied in the Annee sociologique in 1923- 1924, where he introduced for the first time studies on reciprocity and gift exchange. His theory was also able to explain the phenomenons introduced previously by Malinowski (in "Argonauts in Western Pacific", 1922). Malinowski had described the ceremony of exchange (kula) in the Tobriand Islands, where two types of objects were bartered during visits: every one has to give and to receive and afterward to give back, all this under the presence of a magic spirit (mana). This practice has so a social and moral meaning (because it allows pacific relations), but also an economical one, because during exchange ceremony other objects are sold, too. This complex relation is called by Mauss “total prestation” because all general factors of social community are involved. [2] He also compared it to the example of Potlatch (Boas), but in this case it is considered as a total prestation of an agonistic type, because every tribe tries to offer the best gift to gain political and social prestige. In this sense the acts connected to the gift itself are no more a ceremony with a sacral meaning, but become also a sort of competitive and sometimes destructive relation. Mauss introduced the concept of a “total social fact” as a moment of human reality which involves the interaction of all social levels and this stresses the importance of relations as basis for it.

Arnold Van Gennep (1873 – 1957)
Arnold Van Gennep was born in Germany, but he left for France (Savoy) with his family during childhood. In Paris he studied languages, oriental linguistic, Egyptology and religion of non civilised populations at the 'Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes. From 1912 to 1915 he was appointed at the University of Neuchatel, and was his only academical assignment because he was then obliged to return to France as a consequence of his criticism towards Switzerland’s neutrality. There he lived making translations or working in the administrative sector, but he also made some voyages to better know ethnographical elements and perspective, so he was a man who, unlike Mauss, experienced himself by having direct contacts and interactions. He had been a Durkheim’ scholar, but even if he admired him and was in part influenced by him, he anyway criticised his work. Above all he realised that Durkheim had used the example of an only geographical and limited area to explain a whole theory about religion, which should have better been supported by other facts and which it is proved to be substantially wrong (L'état actuel du problème totémique", 1920) [3]; this was also a consequence of the fact that Durkheim had not had any direct experience and so a scarcer competence in the evaluation of data if compared to that of Van Gennep.
His work can be substantially divided into two phases on the basis of his interest: ethnological studies and European folklore, with a particular interest for the French area. His masterpiece “Les rites de passage” (1909) belongs to the first one and allowed him to enter the hall of fame of anthropology. On the basis of his reflection there is the need of classification in the society in order to formalize relations among individuals, thanks also to the division of competences and responsibilities, and to have a coherent and united organisation. In order to maintain this internal balance even after events of transactions and transformations common to all men and women, every society celebrates some ceremonies, which Van Gennep defined as rites of passage. These are classified in three types: rites of separation (pre-liminal), marginal rites (liminal) and rites of aggregation (post-liminal). Rites of separation imply a period of segregation from everyday life and from the previous status in order to mark the entering into a new condition. Liminal rites are the mediating phase between the two statuses and have so a communicative function; the individual must remain isolated because his condition is not defined yet and so in this phase is considered socially ambiguous and potentially dangerous by the whole society. [4] Finally, in rites of aggregation the individual enters again his community through a ceremony, which allows him to definitively change his status. For Van Gennep rites of passage are essential in social life because they avoid internal conflicts and misunderstandings; everyone has in fact to pass through them without exceptions and so they are the way to preserve the social order of a community.


Even if with different types of acting (Mauss was the “last armchair anthropologist” while Van Gennep preferred direct experience), Marcel Mauss and Arnold Van Gennep are to be considered essential in the developing of cultural anthropology because they give the basis for further reflections and interpretations. They had a common starting point in the figure of Durkheim because they were taught by him in almost the same time. But in the case of Mauss, which was strongly connected with him as his nephew, there was a sort of continuation of the work of Durkheim even if with a different approach; on the other hand, Van Gennep reproposed some of Durkheim’s concepts but by the point of view of a real fieldworker, and anyway he moved also some criticism towards him.
Mauss was fundamental for the structuralism of Lévi-Strauss, who was one of his scholars. Structuralism implies in fact a culture based on a system of signs in a society, the importance of relations, which was largely developed by Mauss, and the similarity among societies Moreover his idea of reciprocity was then developed by other anthropologists and considered a common factor for the whole human kind because based on the idea of possession. [5]
On the other side the work of Van Gennep was initially neglected even because he was criticized by Mauss himself, who at that time was considered the predominant figure in the anthropological field; he was anyway rediscovered in the ‘50es and ‘60es especially through the work of Victor Turner and Amy Douglas, who managed to understand the importance of his innovative interpretation.

[1] “One discipline, four ways”, p. 187
[2] “, line 44
[3] “One discipline, four ways”, p. 181
[4], line 31 of second article

Barth, Frederic; Gingrich, Andre; Parkin, Robert; Silverman, Sydel: One Discipline, Four Ways: British, German, French, and American Anthropology. The Halle Lectures. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2005.Gingrich, Andre: Wege zur transkulturellen Analyse: Über die Paradigmenwechsel euro-amerikanischer Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie im 20. Jahrhundert. In: Gingrich, Andre. Erkundungen. Themen der ethnologischen Forschung. Wien: Böhlau. 1999

Friday, January 13, 2006

I will post my essay tomorrow morning, sorry!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Welche Spezifika seines Werkes machen Durkheim zu einem wichtigen Einflussgeber der anthropologischen (bzw. sozialwissenschaftlichen) Theorienbildung des 20. Jahrhunderts? Worin bestehen die Neuerungen im Denken Durkheims, die spätere Forschungsrichtungen inspirierten?

Emile Durkheim represents one of the most important turning points for homan sciences because he can be considered the father of modern sociology, which only through his efforts became de facto a science; moreover he was the first one who managed to teach this discipline in the French context. His great influence was not circumscripted to France, but it was then extented to the new generation of American and British anthropologists, who took Durkheim as a starting point for their further reflections. It is Durkheim who clearly established the logic of the functional approach to the study of social phenomena, although functional explanations, the lineaments of functional reasoning were already discernible in the work of Comte. In particular, he set down a clear distinction between historical and functional types of inquiry and between functional consequences and individual motivations
Born in France in 1858, Durkheim revealed his strong personality and his perseverance during the youth; in 1879 he was admitted to the prestigous Ecole Normale Supérieure, where he became an active participant in the high-minded political and philosophical debates. He was soon a staunch advocate of the republican cause, with special admiration for Léon Gambetta, the „spiritual embodiment" of the Third Republic, and the more moderate Jules Ferry, whose anti-clerical educational reforms would soon lead to a national system of free, compulsory, secular education. In 1887 he became a teacher in the University of Bordeaux and it was under this guise that sociology officially entered the French university system with the first course in Social Sciences. Supported by a brilliant group of young scholars, in 1898 he founded the Année sociologique, the first social science hournal in France: the aims were to provide an annual survey of the strictly sociological literature, to provide additional information on studies in other specialized fields, and to publish original monographs in sociology. In 1913 he was appointed to the Sorbonne, where his course was the only one obligatory for all students seeking degrees in philosophy, history, literature, and languages; in addition, he was responsible for the education of successive generations of French school teachers, in whom he instilled all the ferbour of his secular, rationalist morality. As a consequence of those facts, it is clear how large was his influence.
One of the most important concepts in Durkheim’s work is the introduction of sociology as a science, which studies a group of phenomena called social facts: these are ways of acting and external to the individual, which can however control him thanks to their coercive power and their general extension in the society. In this category are placed also the motivations which lead to apparently individual behaviours (marriage, suicide, etc..) , which however can be reduced to collective phenomena thanks to the use of stastistics. The aim of a sociologist is to find out the rules which regulate social facts, in order to allow a rational management of society and to avoid its dissolution; in this way, the scientificity of sociology is founded, because he has to use adequate methods and a specific competence to obtain these precise laws.
In Durkheim’s first works these arguments are treated in a detailed way, but also other important themes are introduced. His masterpiece is “De la division du travail social"(1893) where he analysed the modern form of society and its impact on individuals and attitudes. In his view, the costitutive process of modernity is the passage from a mechanic to an organic solidarity, as a consequence of the development of the industrialization. Past societies were based on small communities, where tradition and moral were predominant and where all individuals were submitted to collective consciousness; in this context, people are similar in terms of morality and thinking, but also of abilities and functions (organic solidarity). Instead, industrial society implies the division of labour and the specialization of individuals and as a consequence of that, people are solidal not because of their similarity but thanks to their being a non-substitutable part of the same mechanism; these creates an interdependence between sectors and also the consciousness that society can not work properly if there is lack of collaboration. People are so free from ancient conformism and their link to society is represented through their complementarity, which should allow an homogeneous development of the society itself

However in this theoretical and idealistic context, a fundamental problem for Durkheim is to stabilize the limit of the social differentiation, in order to maintain social order at the right level. In fact everyone could try to diversify himself from the others in a stronger and stronger way and this could lead to an internal crisis. As a consequence of that, individualistic inspirations should be limited by collective consciousness above all in the economic sphere, where competition and ambition are very explicit. If this does not happen, the risk of the disintegration of society is higher and moreover this could produce anomie, that is to say the broke of social balances and values due to the lack of rules. Unfortunately this was very common in contemporary society, where the desire to improve the own condition and to become predominant was strongly stimulated: eople in fact wanted to reach self-realization, but when they find out that this is impossible (because of the limit imposed by collective consciousnes), they feel themselves as losers.Anomie could also bring to the suicide (“Le suicide”) because people are not more well integratedin the society: there is in fact unsatisfaction of individual needs and this creates sorrow and uneasiness.The concept of anomie was then developed by R.K.Merton in his work “Social Structure and Anomie” (1966), in which he analysed American society; according to his view, in modern countries there is a tension between laws and desires and people’s reactions to it are distinguished in four different types: integration (balance between laws and desires), resignation (individuals renounce to both laws and desires), ritualism (cult for laws) and anomie, which implies reaching goals without observing the rules of the society.
Another important work of Durkheim was “Les formes elementeires de la vie religieuse” (1912), in which he analysed the primitive forms of religion thanks to some ethnographic studies about Australian aborigens, in which Totemismus was prevalent. Moreover he tried to define religion in the social context. Religion is seen as a way to present the moral coomunty as sacral and moreover in ritual the individuals represent the society itself as something to be venerated. According to his view, religion seems to be an eternal primitive concept (Totemismus) independent from any symbol created during centuries; its main function is thus to reinforce the collective consciousness and, as a result of it, the society itself in order to see it as a total and not as sum of different parts
Durkheim’s theories have had a clear and important role in further reflections and have contribuited in a pregnant way to the development of all human sciences. As already written, he had a strong influence in the French context both in the sociological sector, where he established a new way to intend this discipline, but also in the academic one. Moreover, he must be recognized as the direct ancestor of that type of functional analysis which came to dominate British anthropology under the impact of Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski and which led later, to American functionalism in sociology under T. Parsons and R. K. Merton. Radcliffe Brown in particular was seriously affected by it: in fact in his structural-functionalism he developed the idea of aggregate as an organic system and he also used the scientific method introduced by Durkheim for sociology in order to find out the specific object of anthropology. According to the French philosopher, he was convinced that society is a coherent and functional aggregate, in which parts should cooperate to guarantee the equilibrium of the whole system. The only critic we can move to Durkheim is that he was an armchair anthropologist and so he never experienced his theories, but in any case this does not diminuish his value.

Monday, November 07, 2005

PROBE 1 TUtorium KSA

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